Sodium / salt hydration question

Simple (probably dumb) question - maybe I should’ve paid more attention in high school science…

Is there a difference between using a hydration product (like for example EFS or Precision Hydration) while training and just putting plain old rock salt mixed with water in my bottles? That’s assuming I have the same amount of salt/sodium. Are there different KINDS of salt/sodium that I should be factoring in?

A couple of times I’ve heard the guys (and Amber!) on the podcast saying maybe a bit of salt in your water bottle is all you need, particularly for 60-90min rides. Obviously if I can get away with just using salt that’s going to be a lot cheaper.

I know other products have other electrolytes, but the guys at precision hydration also say you don’t really need that during your ride - sodium (And water) is the main important thing.


I think the only factor is that may be a limit to how much chloride ion you can tolerate before gastric distress sets in. Now, if you were to use sodium citrate (still relatively cheap) like many sports drink manufacturers do…

I think Chad has mentioned this a number of times, you lose sodium at a faster rate than the chloride so its better to get it in another form.

I’ve used a variety of hydration products from cheap to very expensive. For me, it really boils down to sodium: is there enough in there? So, I am back to good ol’ Gatorade spiked with sodium citrate to bring the solution to the 1200 mg/L concentration I know I need. It’s working great, and cheap as heck.

Just search sodium citrate on Amazon and you’ll find dozens of cheap, pure product. A 1/8th teaspoon contains 400 mg of sodium - added to a standard half-liter bike bottle, that provides an 800 mg/L sodium concentration. That, plus a half-scoop of Gatorade makes a great tasting drink right at 1200 mg/L.

Sodium citrate is also great as hydration recovery aid - it doesn’t have the strong salt taste of regular table salt, so it’s easy to add to plain water if my muscles are especially twitchy after a hard ride.


Here’s one I’ve always been curious of:

If salt is an electrolytes/ hydrates you.

How come salt water in the ocean dehydrates you if you drink it?

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What’s the difference between sodium chloride and sodium citrate? Two types of sodium that don’t function in hydration the same way?

And what I’m hearing is that rock salt / table salt is sodium chloride, therefore not ideal?

Chloride builds up in the gut and blocks the movement of the things you want going into your blood: sodium, water, carbohydrates, etc. Chloride passes eventually of course, just not at the pace you need it to when putting out on the bike.

Citrate passes the gut easily and doesn’t block anything.

@alexstenerson: Not completely sure, but I suspect this is the same reason sea water cannot hydrate you – too many other things in there blocking the movement of water (sea water is chock-full of mineral compounds of which sodium chloride is only one)


It increases the salinity of your blood, drawing water out of the cells, according to an article on That sounds like a reputable scientific publication.

Hey @eric1a2krueger
That sounds pretty interesting.
Do you only use Gatorade spiked with sodium citrate or do you also use water? I’ve heard some guys say that we should have a bottle of water and a bottle of hydration products per hour. But then I’ve also heard other guys say that water is not worth carrying around (especially on hilly races) and so it’s best to only use hydration products. In your experience, what would you say is best?

The salinity of sea water is exponentially higher than any sports drink. Too much of anything is not good.

I don’t know for certain, but bet it has to do with osmosis.

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I carry both, as I prefer to wash down gels, solids, etc with plain water.

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Good point… :thinking::+1:

Red Cross don’t use sodium chloride as an anticoagulant.
[nor calcium chews to counteract the side-effects of sodium citrate as an anticoagulant]

[dose is important, I have no clue the relevant quantities between ‘sodium dosing’ and ‘bleeding out’ :stuck_out_tongue: ]


sodium citrate
i am going to order some from amazon, i cant see paying $1 per bottle for salt water. I also cant see carrying 2 bottles, i want to add something to say my murtin product.

Just dropping some canned text I have related to the topic, since I’m here digging for reasons I should include chloride in endurance fuel beverages :wink:

Canned text below:

Our bodies strive to maintain a very specific sodium concentration in our blood. Drinking a lot of water without sodium or when sweating a lot means that the kidneys will actually excrete water (produce urine) to make sure that optimal sodium concentration is maintained in our blood.

This urine production isn’t great for multiple reasons.
A small amount of sodium is still excreted with that water, so you’re still losing sodium in urine, even though all you’re intaking is water. If water intake ceases, all of a sudden you now have less total sodium in your blood, and will retain less of the water you had consumed, as a result. Thus: dehydration ensues, especially if there is sweating. Yes, it’s possible to be both hyponatremic and dehydrated at the same time. Not good!

  1. Dehydration causes decreased thermoregulation and drops in blood volume which actually makes the heart have to beat faster to deliver oxygen at a given intensity/effort level.
  2. Dehydration also reduces thermoregulatory ability. All around, dehydration is a great way to ruin your endurance performance.
    The optimal concentration of sodium for rehydration is ~1800mg of sodium per Liter of water (in a clinical setting), so for athletes it is perfectly fine to consume less sodium from sodium citrate per liter of water!

You may have heard that ocean water (very salty) would dehydrate you. So why would a high sodium concentration beverage be recommended for increased hydration?

Crazy-high sodium concentrations, like in ocean water (ballpark ~30,000mg/L), causes the kidneys to panic to get rid of some of the sodium in your blood, lest you become hypernatremic, ie. have dangerously high blood sodium concentration. The kidneys can only flush out sodium with at least some water along with it, to produce urine…eventually causing severe dehydration. See above reasons why increased urine production and the resultant dehydration isn’t ideal

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Just clarifying here: chloride is often lost at least as fast as sodium in sweat.

I’m digging through the forum to try to find links to evidence/claims that chloride is a necessary component of endurance hydration beverages. I currently don’t recommend it specifically and just want to make triple sure I’m not overlooking any newer findings. I’ve also dug on Google Scholar, of course.

If anyone has any leads on folks claiming that chloride may be important, I’m all ears!

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